By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

autismYou know that it’s an odd news week when the death of 14 people in an industrial explosion is relegated to page eight.  Or when a ricin-laced letter to the President generates all the excitement of an AARP renewal notice.  The story about catching the person who killed the district attorney down in Texas was a footnote.  But the real indicator that we were in a serious news cycle was the Kim Kardashian-Kris Humphries divorce was only of interest to the supermarket tabs.

No, last week we were all focused on the horrible terrorist act in Boston – the deaths, the injuries, the perpetrators and the heroes.  The story was all-encompassing and riveting.  For much of the week it was sad and worrisome.  I heard more than one person lament that our world just isn’t the same.  Friends of a “certain age” talked about how their grandchildren would never know a life where they didn’t have to worry about terrorists, bombs and taking their shoes off before a flight.

I, too, was in this frame of mind last week as I set off on my daily walk with Dash.  Since he’s still a puppy we usually just go around the corner and back.  And frankly, I’m being generous when I use the term “walk” – it’s more that he stops and sniffs everything while I check emails on the phone.  But on this particular walk we saw a car parked at the end of a driveway with a mom and her son. We had seen them before on our walks and always gave them a little wave.  But last week as we passed, the mom rolled down the passenger side window and the little boy stuck his head out to greet us.

Dash and I walked over to their car.  It turns out that the boy (who for purposes of this essay we’ll call “Sam”), is severely autistic.  He had a tussle of curly hair and a big smile.  I spoke with his mom a bit – she was cheerful and patient with Sam as he wiggled in his seat.  I was reminded of the saying that God only gives us what we can handle.  This woman has been given a lot to handle and seemingly does so with an abundance of grace.

I picked Dash up so that Sam could see and pet him.  Dash, as is his wont, stuck his tongue out in an effort to barrage Sam with kisses.  Sam, not able to communicate well, did what seemed logical – he stuck his tongue out at Dash.  The two of them nuzzled in a frenzy of excitement – Dash frantically wagging his tail and Sam giggling at Dash’s kisses. At that moment I realized I was witnessing  joy in its purest sense.  Neither of them could talk; neither of them had to.

A few moments later the school bus pulled up and out stepped the driver, Jim, and his wife/assistant, Janetta.  They were straight out of Central Casting.  He was tall and lanky with an easy smile.  She was caring and sweet.  They greeted us and then went about the business of getting Sam onto the bus.  Janetta told Sam how nice his hair looked while Jim tenderly helped him up the steps.  Once Sam was settled in his seat, Janetta nestled in right next to him.  As they pulled away Jim gave us a big wave out the window.  It felt like something I would have witnessed as a kid in my small town.

So as Dash and I turned for home I felt more content than I had all week.   I knew that when I got home the news on TV might still be stressful but I had just been reminded that there are far more good people than bad in this world.  There are people who are heroic every day.  There is joy to be found every day. And sometimes it’s just around the corner.